HONG KONG –Dormant bars and clubs in Hong Kong’s famous party district Lan Kwai Fong are reopening, but only if consumers have received at least one vaccine shot – one of the few instances globally of providing greater freedom to the vaccinated.
Patrons must register with a government mobile-tracking program when they enter, and bar workers must have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose.Covid-19 has remained largely under control in the Chinese special administrative region.
In Hong Kong, over 11,700 cases of coronavirus have been recorded, well below that of other developed cities.
New rules are being introduced as authorities try to encourage the vaccination of the city’s 7.5 million people. The first dose was received only around 12 percent.
“The reopening of bars and the extension of opening hours are incentives for people to receive the vaccination, while the most important thing… is to prevent the spread of the infection, should it hit us again,” said Professor Lau Chak Sing, head of department of medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
“In an ideal situation, one should complete the course of vaccination to ensure protection,” he said, adding that with Hong Kong’s adequate supply of vaccines, people eager to go to bars would complete both their first and second doses.
Nightclubs, karaoke lounges, and bathhouses will remain open until 2 a.m., but they must run at half capacity, according to the city’s Health Secretary, Ms Sophia Chan.
Only two people can sit at a table in a bar.
Customers must scan and show their record of vaccination – electronically stored on their mobile phones – when entering the government application. Many residents refused to use the app due to concerns about their privacy, but chose to include their details instead.
Restaurants can remain open until 2 a.m. and sit on the table for up to eight people, provided the two doses of vaccination are taken. However, they have a separate area for vaccinated clients and may be forced to close by 10 p.m. or midnight depending on whether the personnel have been vaccinated.Industry executives say the multi-tiered regulations will be difficult to enforce right away, and many venues will be unable to open entirely because they will not be able to convince their employees to get vaccinated.
Mr. Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, a nightclub district property owner and developer, said that while bar owners were desperate to reopen, there was still a lot of fear among workers about vaccinations.
“The restrictions will not be easy. Customers themselves need to have one vaccine, that in itself is very limiting,” he said, adding that the measures were a baby step forward and an experiment for both the government and the industry.
Mr. Simon Wong, the CEO of the LH Group, which runs dozens of restaurants and employs hundreds of people, wrote on his Facebook page that the new deal was “so complicated.”
Since several of his employees refused to be vaccinated, Mr Wong said his restaurants would be able to seat just four customers per table and remain open until 10 p.m.Residents in Hong Kong have been uncomfortable, because of the lack of trust and fear of adverse reactions in China since the vaccination program started in February.
Some residents have demonstrated increased use of the German BioNTech vaccine in the city, but figures overall remain far below satisfied, according to city leader Ms Carrie Lam.